2014 Peugeot 301

Spanish built, French designed baby Pug just about gets a passing grade
By Fraser Martin and Imthishan Giado

2014 Peugeot 301

It is not all about driving flash kit full of ‘astoundingness’, whatever that means, and tearing about the countryside setting tarmac on fire: this job is sometimes just about getting into someone else’s car and seeing what its about. So armed with the 1.6litre, four speed automatic, entry level (well almost) and really inexpensive (at 55-and-a-half large ones!) Peugeot 301 Allure, hot from the presses in Spain, I thought a drive over the mountains to Hatta on a hot day would be as good a test of a small, 4-door automatic as any.

Let me say from the outset that the 301 is no firebrand. It is not carrying an inordinate amount of weight around with it, despite being fairly well appointed for a ‘starter’ car, but 115bhp is not a lot when you are climbing. More happily, the torque, at 150Nm, peaks at a less frenetic 4000rpm so despite the four speed gearbox, it is never really screaming its head off to keep a reasonable pace.

2014 Peugeot 301

The bad news is that, unless there was something really wrong with the test car, the gearbox is the worst I have used since the old three-speed in the Plymouth Prowler! I appreciate that we are talking about what is basically a town runabout here, and that, being built for what is effectively Third World markets – it won’t be sold in Europe or the UK, never mind the US – it does not really have to be terribly sophisticated, but this four speed really does not want to know about getting through the gears! It is happy enough in top but seems to have real problems in deciding which other gear to go into at any other time. It reminds me of the indecision sometimes experienced in non-VW Group multi-speed boxes (no names, no pack drill!) but without the subtle smoothness. If you stir it with the manual over-ride on the shifter, it gets to the acceptable stage, but on its own, the drivetrain seems a bit lost. It really lets down what is otherwise quite a mature little car.

2014 Peugeot 301

I like the looks of the car – they are conservative, as you would expect from a four door, booted 3-box sedan, and quite pleasing to the eye. The front is corporate enough without falling into the Lexus trap (someone really needs to hide the origami book at Nagoya!) and you can see out of it easily enough. Even the quite solid C-post does not cause too much concern as the rear view mirrors are excellent. The body is clean, there are no ‘clever’ swage lines suggesting something or other from the animal kingdom, and it is quite simply a pleasing little car. The colour choices are a tad monochromatic – black, white, two greys, a couple of browns and for the really bold amongst you, a blue! It is well loaded in Allure specification with fog lamps and alloys, and the interior is richly dark and has most of what you’d expect to find in the equivalent Japanese or Korean peer models. The 301 has an honest look about it: clearly it is not trying to be something that it is not, and I appreciate the complete absence of kid-on carbon fibre, pretend tree and sticky-backed plastic go-faster bits on the outside.

2014 Peugeot 301

There are, nonetheless, three trim options across the small range of cars in terms of material patterns, but you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. I quite like the shiny piano black ‘wood’ (it isn’t wood of course, not at this level) but have my reservations about how long it will still look pretty. The textures and finishes inside the car, however, are a step above the entry level Korean offerings, where some of the hard plastics are still pretty ghastly. The hard plastics here look hard wearing, rather than something that has been recycled from office in-trays.

2014 Peugeot 301

In the 301 Allure there is no nav, no rear camera and no parking sensors but it has electric windows all round, split folding rear seat – unusual in this class – central locking, electric mirrors, tinted glass and a perfectly agreeable air conditioner with dust filter – what more could you reasonably expect for what I have worked out is about Dhs.40 a day over four years: it’s cheaper than taxis if what you need is a school-run chariot, a shopping trolley or a bit less crush than the Metro!

And in reality, if all you need is a shopping trolley or anything else that just needs to be reliable and economical and get you from A to B with the minimum of fuss, you are not really going to notice that gearbox, are you?

Imthishan’s Counterpoint
Let me say from the onset that I have nothing against simple and honest transportation; I have owned a succession of Corollas, Mazdas and old Civics over the years for just this purpose, no-frills shopping trolley cars of the ilk described by Messrs Martin above.

What I have a big problem with is the Peugeot 301, because driving this is unrelentingly awful, a daily constant reminder that this little three-box Spanish-built dollop of misery is all your pitiful bank balance could afford. The styling is OK – inoffensive but not memorable enough for me to avoid losing it in various mall car parks three times over the course of my test. It’s a saloon with a big boot and if that’s what you want, that’s what you get – although why you’d pick this over a cheeky little Mazda 2 is beyond me.

No, what really offends me about the 301 is being inside it. The plastics are shinier than Dick Cheney’s head and about as honest to the touch. In typically French fashion the switchgear is scattered – why have the radio controls on a virtually invisible stalk behind the steering wheel – and rate poorly both for ergonomics and perceived quality. The driving position is weird as well – because the steering wheel doesn’t telescope the only way I can comfortable is to adopt a typically Italian long-arm, short-leg pose; great for long journeys. (Not).

And then there’s the drive; I will grudgingly admit that the 301 rides and handles exceptionally well for the class with well-damped body movements and few ruts transmitted to the cabin. But that’s all I’ll admit because the engine and gearbox is completely, utterly, horrible to use. I’m sure the 1.6-litre engine does produce 115bhp but Lord knows where they’re hiding those ponies because it always feel like it’s struggling to shift the meagre 1090 kilos this car weighs, always screaming its head off to keep up with traffic. On the highway, try travelling at 120kph, then at the legally mandated maximum of 140kph – the 301 is doing 4000 noisy, droney rpm and feels it’s exploring the very outer envelope of what little performance it has. Coupled with copious amounts of wind, engine and road noise, driving the 301 on the highway feels like attempting re-entry in a Soyuz capsule.

Not like you have a choice thanks to that abysmal gearbox either; if you leave it alone and accelerate gently, it just gets into top gear as fast as possible, lugging the groaning engine along if you dare to prod the accelerator. In fact, whatever you do with the throttle, the car is always, always reminding you: give up. Give in. Just creep along in the slow lane. Stop trying to pretend you can get anywhere quickly.

It’s not often that I truly, truly hate a car. Truth be told, the 301 is a cheap car and perhaps doesn’t deserve the sort of vitriol I reserve for the likes of the Renault Duster. But it is cheap for a reason – it feels like a rough-and-tumble car for an emerging market that’s graduating from scooters and bus passes, not a country like the UAE with its outsize ambitions. Out here, it doesn’t fit, it feels like a comic book geek at a lingerie fashion show – out of place and terminally embarassed.

If you must have a cheap saloon, get that Mazda 2. Get a Kia Cerato. Get a Metro Pass. Get anything else, besides a 301.

2014 Peugeot 301
Price: AED55,000 ($14,975k)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder , 115bhp @ 6050rpm, 110lb ft @ 4000rpm
Performance: None to speak of, but since you ask: 10.8s 0-100kph, 188kph
Transmission: Four-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1090kg



10 responses to “2014 Peugeot 301”

  1. tarek says:

    i have a problem in my 301, the gear box from the 1st gear to the 2nd gear some time i feel a vibration when the rpm between 2 and 2.5 , any information about this problem ??????

  2. Ahmed says:

    My Peujeout 301 gear box can’t shift to T “D” Which is Drive?!! is there any safety that force this to happen ?! please i want quick reply!!

  3. Ayman says:

    I,ve this car since 8 months !! it’s amazing city car !! low fuel consumption with reasonable power !! don’t expect to feel like my boss range rover lol

  4. SAQIB QASIM says:

    I bought this car in 2013, but the year model is 2014.
    The gear shifting problem from gear 1 to gear 2 is very very high.
    Everytime the gear shifts the vehicle makes heavy vibration, it makes a fear that some earthquake came only for my car.
    This vehicle sent to authorized work shop in Sharjah, UAE for 6 times for the same problem. It looks manufacturer and service team knows this problem, but not accepting.
    If any of you suggest how to resolve this problem,

  5. mohamed says:

    I have just received 301 allure 2 weeks ago and after 1 hour of driving the hood and fenders are very hot you can not even touch them but the red warning light (for the coolant temperature) is not lightened
    any body suffers from the same thing, is that normal.

  6. Car lover says:

    Problem of this car the front windshield gets foggy at night specially when its raining, the a/c fan is weak, and the auxillary fan is too loud. Sounds like a household vacuum cleaner. By the way I live in a tropical climate country.

  7. Gareth De Zilva says:

    Hi All

    Maybe a few years late, but I would like to understand better this problem with the 1-2nd gear shift, as sometimes the gear just doesn’t want to get engaged, literally need to force it into second, on the whole an amazing car, I drove it on the Autobahn and the 1.2 liter car flew at 160 km/h with ease on the 5th, but in the city I keep having problems moving from first gear to second. I would like to know if this would cause the gear box or clutch plate breakage? how long on average till this happens? is there a fix that Peugeot has come up with for this problem?

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